Challenge 3: Growing Beyond Earth®

For Groups  — Maximum points: 300 (1 entry per school)

As NASA looks toward a long-term human presence beyond Earth’s orbit, there are specific science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) challenges related to food production in space. Established in 2015 as a partnership between Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and NASA’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs, Growing Beyond Earth enables student community scientists to actively contribute data toward NASA mission planning. Students will have the opportunity to present their Spring 2024 research findings to NASA Scientists at a virtual research symposium. Download PDF


NEW SCHOOLS will conduct the following experiment: 

  • Cultivar Testing in the new GBE unit – click here for Research Protocols

RETURNING SCHOOLS will choose one of the following experiments:

  • Irradiated Seeds – click here for Research Protocols (REVISED 09-18-2023)
  • Dynamic Lighting – click here for Research Protocols
  • Herb Selections – click here for Research Protocols
  • Combined Containers and Companion Plants – click here for Research Protocols


Students have the opportunity to create and execute their own original research proposal and experiment. For more information on this optional experiment click here.


  • Teachers must register to attend a mandatory workshop lead by NASA to receive information on research protocols by September 1, 2023. There are three workshop dates offered: Saturday, September 9, 2023, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm OR Wednesday, September 13, 2023, from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm in ENGLISH OR Thursday, September 14, 2023, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm in ESPAÑOL. Teachers must attend ONLY ONE of these workshops. 
  • Those teachers registered for the workshop must submit a Lease Agreement if they plan to participate in this challenge.
  • Data and research presentation must be submitted for entry submission to be considered completed.


Electronically submit the following:

Physically submit the following:

  • Poster, delivered in person or mailed to Fairchild Challenge via certified mail to 10901 Old Cutler Road, Goral Gables, Florida 33156, ATTN: Education Department. Hand deliver entries M-F, 9a-5p at the South/Employee entrance. Call the Challenge team at 305-663-8081 or use the provided drop box.
Registration for Mandatory Workshop Friday, September 1, 2023
Final Trial 1 Data Entry Due Friday, November 17, 2023
Optional Trial 2 Proposal Due Friday, December 15, 2023
Trial 1 Poster Due Monday January 8 – Sunday, January 14, 2024 
Optional Trial 2 Data Due Friday, April 5, 2024 
Optional Trial 2 Presentation Submission Due Wednesday, April 17, 2024 
Virtual Growing Beyond Earth® Student Research Symposium Saturday, April 20, 2024, Time TBD
✓   Data Requirements:

Weekly student-created, scientifically relevant tweets including the school’s name, @GrowBeyond Earth, and descriptions of any photographs, illustrations, or graphs.


All appropriate data fields complete and valid. Any irregularities or empty fields accompanied by an explanation.

  Data updated weekly on provided Google data sheets.
  On-time entry submission. Late entries will be accepted with a reduction in points.
✓   Trial 1 Poster Requirements:

Physical Poster must include a descriptive title AT THE TOP and student(s) first name, last initial and school’s name in small font at the BOTTOM RIGHT of the poster.


Poster must be 22” x 28” and must follow the format of the MS poster template.


Poster must include visual representation of data, discussion, conclusion, and at least 3 references.

  All photographs and illustrations must include descriptive captions.
  On-time entry submission. Late entries will be accepted with a reduction in points.
✓   Optional Trial 2 Proposal and Presentation Requirements:
  Student designed, original research project informed by Trial 1 data.
  Proposal utilizes provided template with all sections completed.
  Proposal includes a bibliography citing 3 sources, MLA or APA format.
  Presentation is 7 slides MAXIMUM: 1 opening slide, 1 closing/references slide and 5 content slides.
  Presentation opening slide includes descriptive title, student(s) first name, last initial and school name. Presentation must include an introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, conclusion and at least 5 references following MLA or APA format.
  All photographs, illustrations, graphs and tables must include captions.
  On-time entry submission. Late entries may not be accepted.

For more information on how your submission will be evaluated, see Symposium Evaluation Sheet

300 Total Points Breakdown:

  • Trial 1 Data: Max 50 pts
  • Poster: Max 100 pts
  • Proposal: Max 50 pts
  • Trial 2 Data: Max 50 pts
  • Presentation: Max 50 pts

We will be hosting an OPTIONAL online chat with NASA scientists about the Growing Beyond Earth project. Teachers participating in GBE will receive an invitation a week before each chat with instructions on how to participate. See below for a list of scheduled dates and recordings:

  • Thursday, October 12 at 4:00 pm EDT
  • Thursday, November 9 at 4:00 pm EST
  • Thursday, December 7 at 4:00 pm EST
  • Thursday, January 11 at 4:00 pm EST
  • Thursday, February 15 at 4:00 pm EST
  • Thursday, March 7 at 4:00 pm EST

Visit the Challenge 3 Lesson Planning Guide for ideas on how to implement this challenge in your classroom.

Bring your class on a field trip at Fairchild. Please visit Explorer Field Trip Programs for more information.

Growing Beyond Earth® (homepage)
Research Toolkit: Returning Schools: Coming Soon OR New Schools: Coming soon.
What to Tweet
2021-2022 Growing Beyond Earth® results
Growth Chamber Assembly Demonstration (video) – UPDATED October 4, 2022.
Growth Chamber Assembly Demonstration – short version (video) – UPDATED October 4, 2022.
Click HERE to see the Growing Beyond Earth 2022 Student Research Symposium Winners

2023-2024 Introduction to Growing Beyond Earth Presentation by Dr. Gioia Massa (video)
2023-2024 Introduction to Growing Beyond Earth Presentation (powerpoint)
Cultivar Testing Workshop Recording
Irradiated Seeds Workshop Recording
Intro to Space Radiation Presentation by Dr. Alexander Meyers, NASA Postdoctoral Fellow (powerpoint)
Dynamic Lighting Workshop Recording
Herb Selections Workshop Recording
Combined Containers and Companion Plants Workshop Recording

Advanced Plant Habitat

Veggie Fact Sheet
Astro Science Journal for Teens: Can we grow safe and nutritious food in space? – UPDATED January 19, 2023
Astro Science Journal for Teens: Can we grow safe and nutritious food in space? TEACHER’S KEY – UPDATED January 19, 2023
Growing Plants in Space – UPDATED January 19, 2023
GBE Twitter Feed
Growing Beyond Earth® TEDx (video) and Space Station Live: Veggie 01 (video)
2015-2022 Growing Beyond Earth® Seed List
How Plants Grow in Space
APA and MLA Citation Generator

For additional resources, please visit the Teacher Resources webpage.

This website is based upon the work supported by NASA under grant award No 80NCCS22M0125. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.